Through the Digital Main Street Ontario program, Cait’s Café in Goderich, Ontario developed a concrete plan to improve their SEO and digital marketing efforts.

Cait’s Café in Goderich, Ontario has become a popular spot with the locals, known for its signature croissants. Founders Cait and Spencer Vail have learned first-hand how chaotic life can become when a small business enjoys early success. It’s all too easy to let the day-to-day demands of the business distract from the need to create a sound marketing strategy that will ensure a prosperous future.

For Cait, baking had always been a passion and a comfort activity. She sold the goods from her original home-based business through a local farmers’ market. After two years, this had grown so successful that Spencer quit his full-time job as a chef to support her. The following year, in 2016, they decided to open a café in downtown Goderich.

Cait’s Café is a fast-casual coffee shop with a full lunch menu. “Everything from vanilla bean syrup to the croissants is hand-made by us,” Cait said. “The café stands out like a small Parisian café where the customers can watch Spencer taking roaster pork belly out of the oven and baristas putting the cold drip on.”

When it came to marketing and promoting the business online, Cait thought she had it all well in hand, along with all the other management activities on her plate.

Early in 2019, the couple learned about Digital Main Street’s Digital Transformation Training and Grant Program  through her local Goderich BIA. Cait met with a BIA representative to discuss the program and undertook the free digital assessment.

This opened her eyes to just how much more she could be doing to market Cait’s Café online, and build the business, with a more targeted and strategic approach.

She proceeded to apply for a Digital Main Street Digital Transformation Grant of $2,500. Part of the application process required her to take a series of online training modules.

“I learned a ton in that course about stuff I really thought I already knew a lot about,” she said. “It was easy to follow.  Doing the digital assessment also allowed me to figure out our strengths and weaknesses – I realized my biggest weakness was in search engine optimization (SEO).”

Lack of money, lack of time, lack of a widely recognized brand, and a lack of expertise with the latest quirks of Google’s search algorithms – these are the most common issues that small businesses have with using SEO effectively to ensure they rank high in search results.

With the insight she gained through Digital Main Street’s online training, and the grant money, Cait developed a concrete game plan to improve the café’s SEO and other digital marketing efforts. This includes:

  • Hiring an agency to execute on digital marketing initiatives, starting with improved SEO and website design, followed by a formal social media marketing effort.
  • In support of that, working with a video production crew, to create a series of shorts that showcase the magic in the café’s kitchen.
  • Improve software tools for graphic design.
  • Ongoing digital training on how to continue improving the café’s online reach.

“We’re focusing our growth more on corporate catering and we want everyone who walks through our door and travels to Goderich to know they are getting a truly unique experience,” Cait said. “We want to become a destination for tourists because they know we make everything from scratch, and they can’t get a pumpkin spice latte or chocolate croissant like ours anywhere else.”

By taking a structured approach that targets specific groups of customers, and by tapping into some professional help, Cait has been able to establish measurable objectives for the first half of 2020 by which to gauge her success, such as:

  • Increase yearly sales, particularly in the winter months, by 10 per cent, targeting the local demographic through SEO and new website content.
  • Increase local website traffic by 30 per cent.
  • Increase loyalty program participation by 50 per cent through local targeting.
  • Increase “bring your own mug” program by 50 per cent through local targeting.
  • Increase corporate catering sales by 30 per cent.
  • Increase brand identification and customer engagement by 25 per cent through video productions.

Cait has come to realize that driving an effective digital marketing strategy is a never-ending process.

“I have already revisited the Digital Main Street course material to continue learning about how to improve our digital footprint and how to tailor our plan for expansion to really target those specific audiences,” she said. “I’m going to continue treating this area of our business as vital and as a life-long learning experience.”

Cait and Spencer’s story is just one example of how more than 2,000 main street small businesses across Ontario took advantage of Digital Main Street’s Digital Transformation Training and Grants program. The Digital Transformation Grant is no longer available (ended December 31, 2019), though you can still access Digital Main Street’s complimentary digital assessments, virtual training and in-person workshops: 

Watch this testimonial of how Digital Main Street’s resources helped a storefront small business boost their digital performance and overall business growth.

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